Dances with the Dragons – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser April 5, 20180 Comments
Gayus and Gigina standing back to back, holding their weapons

What’s it about? Gayus and Gigina are Offensive Jushikiists, fighters able to use a reality-warping technique (magic, it’s basically magic) to slay dragons. Politicians and the church are at war over the Holy Land of Alsok, and the church has its eye on the duo for unknown purposes. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure is murdering Jushikiists for unknown reasons.

Dances with the Dragons is a high-concept fantasy anime with an element of political intrigue, which means about half of this first episode is basically impenetrable. Exposition is thrown out at a mile a minute (the opening prologue is a hilarious minute or so of explaining why the magic the main characters use is totally actually science, you guys), political factions are shown having meetings over things of clear but poorly defined impact, and made-up words are said with grim importance.

All that said, I’m interested in what looks like the core behind the initial nonsense, so let me relate it to you in a less self-important way: there are magic-users who fight dragons; the world is basically modern but there are elves and also ruined cityscapes exist somewhere because of the dragons; there is a place of ancient importance that everybody wants; the Church is probably evil from the looks of the character designs; and the poor, down-on-their-luck mercenaries-for-hire are going to get caught up in it. Also, something something serial killer.

Gigina sitting in front of a huge pile of paperwork

It’s a lot, but once your brain grasps the basic archetypal beats and gives up on trying to remember all the dumb fantasy names right off the bat, it’s not bad as far as set-up goes. And, while the magic is kind of unimpressive (lot of lighting effects to pad things out, basically) the general aesthetic of the series is solid and not afraid of color so that you can differentiate characters from one another.

The source material is apparently famously grimdark with lots of sex and violence, and there’s a little bit of indication that way here. A lot of the action takes place at night, though it’s considerably better lit than the misbegotten Fist of the Blue Sky, there’s a fair amount of bloodspray during combat, and the female characters all have big water balloons taped to their chests (more on that in a minute).

The main draw, though, is the dynamic between Gayus and Gigina, the two Jushikiists. They loosely fit into a hot/cold dynamic, with Gayus as the terminally broke intellectual and Gigina as the proud warrior who’s not too fussed about daily life and spends all their money on cool weapon upgrades. Comedy ensues. But there’s also an aggressive, prickly undercurrent involving Gayus making a lot of comments I’d call “aggro-flirtatious” and Gigina threatening serious murder when certain subjects come up. The ‘ship potential is palpable.

close up of Gayus. caption: Gigina, you were waiting for me to fall to my knees, weren't you?
close up of Gigina. caption: who could possibly fall to their knees before you?

They’re not going to smooch, mind. This is the kind of series that plays up the Deep, Important Bond between the leads while throwing in a token heterosexual love interest so they can assure straight audiences out the other side of their mouth. Which brings us to the female characters, particularly Gayus’ poor girlfriend, Ziveena.

I am pre-agonized over this character, whose only scene in the premiere is a dinner date where she reassures Gayus, has a comment made about her ass, and then gets macked on before a fade to black. Given that Ziveena’s shot in the opening credits is a panning shot of her looking out the window sadly while hugging her boobs, I don’t have much confidence that she’ll ever get to do anything besides be generically supportive and stalwart—nor that her relationship to Gayus will mean much beyond “look guys, no homo, we swear.”

Zeveena sitting next to Gayus. caption: while I was looking at my girlfriend's beautiful ass as she was making coffee?

There are two other women seen briefly: a queen who may be in league with The Church, and a plucky reporter who’s a friend of Gayus. Their brief seconds of screentime were at least interesting and had potential for serious plot involvement, and it would seem that the yet-unrevealed, possibly sympathetic killer might also be a woman.

I’m interested enough to see where these threads go to give it the three-episode try, but I would warn prospective viewers to be wary. Again, that shipteasing is guaranteed to go nowhere in text, and series aimed at men with grimdark reputations have a bad habit of eventually fridging or otherwise torturing female characters for the sake of drama. It might turn out to be a compelling show, but it’s good to be prepared for likely pitfalls going in.

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